Libraries at the nation’s elementary schools and junior high schools are a combined 65.79 million books short of government standards for class sizes, the Education Ministry said.

According to a ministry survey conducted in May 1999, about 14 percent of elementary schools had less than half of the books they require, while about 22 percent of junior high schools faced similar book shortages.

On average, each school is 2,600 books short, ministry officials said Tuesday.

The ministry set a new standard for school libraries in 1993 that would increase the number of books 1.5 times, based mainly on student numbers.

In conjunction with the Home Affairs Ministry, the Education Ministry has annually provided municipalities with about 10 billion yen to fill library shelves with books and meet government standards, the Education Ministry said.

However, the survey showed the funds might be used for other projects due to budget shortfalls and the fact that the majority of school libraries do not meet the standards. The funds are from local allocation taxes, and municipalities are free to use them as they wish.

The ministry has already notified local boards of education to buy books to meet the standards soon, the officials added.

Meanwhile, all schools that have more than 12 classes will be required to hire librarians beginning in April 2003. About 24,000 librarians are expected to be placed in elementary and junior high schools, according to the officials.

There were only 574 registered librarians nationwide when the survey was conducted, they added.

In the report, the ministry also urged prefectural boards of education to systematically train and hire qualified librarians, the officials said.

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